Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Colorado’ tag

Fracking in Colorado

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Ugh, this is such a tough issue.

On one hand, there are substantial benefits from the oil and gas brought out by this process, as well as the jobs and revenues that come with them. On the other, we need the long term vision that will protect human and environmental health and the discipline to ensure both of them.

Particularly in places like Weld County, which is Colorado’s biggest agricultural producer and home to many proposed and existing fracking sites, we see the tangible positives and negatives of fracking, and are hearing from citizens who fall on both the pro- and anti-fracking sides of the debate. In agricultural communities the health of soil and water is important not just for the immediate implications to human health, but also for the long term implications for the health and safety of the food we grow, and the livelihoods of the people who depend on selling that food.

I’ve said on this site before that it is the job of government to internalize the externalities, to create a regulatory framework that ensures industry activities do not have negative impacts on the communities where they operate. This framework must include proactive measures motivating companies to guard against problems, as well as reactive measures that force organizations to pay those external costs of clean up and damages if there are  problems.

The important issue raised in the article below is that companies have worked to avoid making the payments even when they are found to be at fault, causing local citizens to question the statewide framework and seek to implement policies on local levels.

The upsides are that Colorado citizens are learning the details of these issues, making our voices heard from different perspectives, and forcing government and corporations to listen and take action. Keep at it, y’all.

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

Denver metro cities digging in before oil and gas drills do

COMMERCE CITY — Even in this bastion of industry that hosts a refinery, residents are imploring their elected leaders to protect them from oil and gas drilling planned within city limits.

“This is where we live, where we made our investments of our lives. It’s not about money,” Kristi Douglas said Thursday during a working-group forum, the latest of dozens of city and county meetings in Front Range communities.

[…]

Colorado’s State Land Board hit the brakes on a controversial metro-Denver drilling project after learning that ConocoPhillips is embroiled in a lawsuit for failing to pay the state $152 million for cleanup of leaky underground gas tanks.

[…]

“The state has the experience and the infrastructure to effectively and responsibly regulate oil and gas development,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said. “A healthy industry is important to our state’s economy, and a mosaic of regulatory approaches across cities and counties is not conducive to clear and predictable rules that mark efficient and effective government.”

[…]

But the board delayed a decision after it learned another state agency is suing Conoco in a dispute over past cleanups of contamination at 354 sites of leaking underground gas tanks.
[…]
“We need to get the state General Assembly involved. We need to get some things, like setbacks, addressed,” Benson said. “Yes, we welcome industry here. But you’ve got to protect the health and safety of your people.”
Read the complete article here.

Colorado Senate Attempts to Strike Delicate Energy Balance

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Yikes. Once again I’m conflicted between an awareness that we need to move towards domestic, renewable energy, and an understanding that this move is expensive.

I am more than willing, and fortunate to be able, to pay 20% more in my power bill to support these efforts, but there are plenty of people who are not so inclined, and even if they were, cannot afford to do so.

One solution is energy efficiency. Homes and businesses that are properly insulated, have efficient appliances and machinery, and that use energy wisely can reduce their energy costs, thus enabling slightly higher bills per unit of energy used.

Hopefully our state legislature can succeed in striking this delicate balance.

The Associated Press February 10, 2011, 8:32AM ET

Colo. renewable energy rules survive GOP offensive

DENVER

Colorado Democrats slammed the door Wednesday on Republican plans to undo clean-energy policies adopted in recent years.

A Democrat-controlled Senate committee narrowly rejected three Republican proposals to lower consumer utility bills.

Democrats said they sympathized with residents paying steeper power bills but insisted the proposed changes would be short-sighted.

Read the entire article here.

Gov. Ritter Continues with Energy Efforts, Serving Colorado

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It’s great to see Gov. Ritter continuing to work at the service of the people of Colorado, and future generations in general, by working with students at CSU on the kinds of energy issues that have made him such a great governor for the last four years.

Of course it also makes the libertarian in me happy that this is being funded by private dollars:

“It was very important to me and to the president that it was privately funded because of the difficulties we’ve had in securing public dollars for higher-ed during this awful recession,” Ritter said.

As long as Ritter and this program continue to strive for substantive and practical solutions to the energy needs of tomorrow, how could we lose?

Ritter to take new energy job at Colorado State

By IVAN MORENO – Jan 6, 2011 6:11 AM MT

DENVER (AP) — Outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter held up his old college ID card and smiled, announcing Wednesday that his next career move will be a return to his alma mater as the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.

“So I don’t even have to have a new ID card, I can use the one, I think this is from somewhere around ’75 or ’76,” Ritter said as he displayed his identification card to reporters. Ritter, who leaves office Tuesday, will earn $300,000 a year at his new post, a “healthier salary than the governor’s salary,” he said.

The job is being paid for with donations funding the new center. Ritter makes $90,000 a year as governor. The governor graduated in 1978 from CSU with an undergraduate degree in political science.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 7th, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Moving Clean Energy Beyond Climate Change

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Clearly these elections did not come down to such simplistic terms as those in the headline to the article below. Our energy future may be my #1 concern, and it’s definitely on the minds of many other voters, but there’s a lot more at stake here as well.

I’ve been pretty torn in this year’s elections. On one hand, I’m very much in favor of a more progressive approach to energy issues, believing that while fossil fuels will remain an important part of our energy matrix for decades and hopefully centuries to come, but I also understand that continuing business as usual will doom us to some frightening dead ends. On the other hand, government intervention, as it has been implemented for corn ethanol, is inefficient and creates market distortions that limit innovation.

If our state’s government can create market based incentives that encourage the most cost effective clean technologies, rather than simply supporting their own pet projects, then these investments will be much more able to pay themselves back in the mid and long term.

As for climate change denial versus clean energy, we need to transcend these contentious barriers and see that there are many more advantages to clean, renewable, domestic energy than simply avoiding climate change. If we continue to hammer away at that one point, we will continue fighting, rather than building on the already-abundant common ground that exists where we can see that these clean energy efforts are good for our economy, good for our environment, and good for America.

Gene Karpinski

Gene Karpinski

President, League of Conservation Voters

Clean Energy Defeats Climate Denial in Colorado

As I’ve said before, we lost many friends on Election Day — friends who stood up to the Big Oil companies and championed clean energy policies. And while corporate polluters and their lobbyists may claim this was a referendum on clean energy reform that was clearly not the case. Our election eve poll showed that voters who supported the Republican candidate in 83 battleground districts did not do so because of the Democrat’s vote for clean energy and climate legislation. In fact, in an open ended question, only 1 percent of voters who supported the Republican candidate cited cap and trade as their reason for opposing the Democratic candidate.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

November 13th, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Soil is essential, non-renewable, and disappearing

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The headline on the article below borders on yellow journalism (I hope I sufficiently toned down my own headline above), but the problem of soil erosion is very, very real. If there’s any doubt in your mind, head to the rural Midwest and take a look at a church yard nestled amongst the corn and soybean fields. The churchyard will be six to ten feet higher than the surrounding farm fields.

Why? Modern industrial agriculture, the methods widely practiced around the world, too often leads to massive amounts of erosion. The soil simply blows away or is washed downstream.

Deforestation leads to more erosion as plants that would have held the soil, and the water essential to healthy soil, are removed for timber or to make way for agriculture. The crops may be beneficial to the soils, a nice symbiotic relationship common in systems untouched by humans, but if the soil is left bare for months at a time, as is usually the case in the Midwestern US during the winter, that soil is still highly vulnerable to erosion, hence the church yard phenomenon.

Civilization’s Foundation Eroding

September 28, 2010

Lester R. Brown

The thin layer of topsoil that covers the planet’s land surface is the foundation of civilization. This soil, typically 6 inches or so deep, was formed over long stretches of geological time as new soil formation exceeded the natural rate of erosion. But sometime within the last century, as human and livestock populations expanded, soil erosion began to exceed new soil formation over large areas.

Sinai Desert
Credit: iStock Photo/stevenallan

[…]

In a section of his report entitled “The Hundred Dead Cities,” he described a site in northern Syria, near Aleppo, where ancient buildings were still standing in stark isolated relief, but they were on bare rock. During the seventh century, the thriving region had been invaded, initially by a Persian army and later by nomads out of the Arabian Desert. In the process, soil and water conservation practices used for centuries were abandoned. Lowdermilk noted, “Here erosion had done its worst….if the soils had remained, even though the cities were destroyed and the populations dispersed, the area might be re-peopled again and the cities rebuilt, but now that the soils are gone, all is gone.”

[…]
During the late nineteenth century, millions of Americans pushed westward, homesteading on the Great Plains, plowing vast areas of grassland to produce wheat. Much of this land—highly erodible when plowed—should have remained in grass. This overexpansion culminated in the 1930s Dust Bowl, a traumatic period chronicled in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath. In a crash program to save its soils, the United States returned large areas of eroded cropland to grass, adopted strip-cropping, and planted thousands of miles of tree shelterbelts.

Amazon Deforested

Credit: iStock Photo/Brasil2

During the late nineteenth century, millions of Americans pushed westward, homesteading on the Great Plains, plowing vast areas of grassland to produce wheat. Much of this land—highly erodible when plowed—should have remained in grass. This overexpansion culminated in the 1930s Dust Bowl, a traumatic period chronicled in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath. In a crash program to save its soils, the United States returned large areas of eroded cropland to grass, adopted strip-cropping, and planted thousands of miles of tree shelterbelts.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

September 29th, 2010 at 7:56 am

Ritter, energy companies announce wildlife plans

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If this is implemented and enforced properly it could provide a great guideline for the continued advancement of Colorado’s considerable energy resources. The trick with any legislation like this is balancing the need for environmental protection with the need for economic development.

(AP) – Aug 10, 2010

DENVER — Gov. Bill Ritter and energy companies announced agreements Tuesday that are intended to minimize the impacts of oil and gas drilling on 355,000 acres of key wildlife habitat in western Colorado.

The deals between the state and nine companies, including ExxonMobil and EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), will cover part of the Piceance Basin, among Colorado’s most active natural gas fields and home to some of the country’s largest deer and elk herds.

[…]

“This balanced approach will drive our economy forward, allow us to maximize our vast energy resources and ensure sustainable communities for years to come,” Ritter said.

Read the entire article here.

The Profitability and Economic Advantage of Renewable Energy

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“[Then Gov.] Bush and his fellow Texans didn’t create the [renewable energy] industry because they were worried about global warming. They did it because there was money to be made.
There still is. And if Congress doesn’t hurry, most of it is going to be made in China.”

With the August recess just a few days away, and politicians focused on the most important mid-term elections in at least a decade, I have little faith that anything substantive will happen with energy legislation before the new year. And with Republican prospects as strong as they are and a lack of Republican support for rewriting the way our government influences our energy usage, the chances don’t look much better in 2011.

I suggest not a quantitative change in government intervention, unless it’s a decrease, but a qualitative shift. In other words, this is not a call for increased government intervention or market distortions, but a change in the way the government intervenes. Today’s regulations hamper the ability of people in the free market to find the most efficient solutions to our energy challenges. Not good.

The best bet would be for the government to set the standards, as with Renewable Electricity Standards (RES), bring pricing in line with the externalities associated with different forms of fuel, so that issues such as healthcare costs incurred as people get sick from breathing air that’s been polluted by coal, and then let firms work within this transparent framework to deliver reliable power at the best possible price. These RES would offer much better prospect for people in later generations to enjoy more of the options we have presently, without forcing us to make unrealistic sacrifices now.

Without these measures, we face a number of serious problems, including an economy plagued by dependence on foreign energy, air that continues to be dirtied by coal and petroleum, and more jobs going to places like China as those visionaries who know that renewable fuels are going to bring big returns on investment flock to the countries that encourage, and benefit from, this necessary and lucrative innovation.

Senate Inaction Cedes U.S. Energy Race to China

By Eric Pooley – Jul 29, 2010 7:00 PM MT

Right now the U.S. Senate is conducting a master class on the perils of legislation by rearview mirror. On July 27, when Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled the “Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act,” the two most powerful clean energy provisions were missing: a cap on carbon emissions from the electric power sector and a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), which would require utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021.
For years, business leaders from General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt to venture capitalist John Doerr have warned that if America failed to pass a comprehensive climate-and-energy bill, the country risked losing the clean energy race to China — sacrificing the jobs of the future in a timid, ill-fated effort to preserve the jobs of the past. Now those warnings are coming true.
[…]

In a meeting with business leaders and environmental advocates early last year, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers described a “scissors” approach to economic recovery, according to several people who were present but not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The first blade of the scissors, Summers explained, was the stimulus package and its tens of billions for clean energy deployment. The second blade would be a mandatory, declining cap on carbon, which would remove the investment uncertainty that has hobbled the energy market, and draw billions of private dollars off the sidelines.
[…]
Instead of funding U.S. projects, banks and venture capitalists increasingly are putting their energy money into China, where the market is large and secure, thanks to government mandates. In the second quarter, for example, China attracted more clean-tech asset financing than Europe and the U.S. combined, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
[…]
On the same day that Reid pulled the plug on the carbon cap, China Daily announced that the People’s Republic would begin an experiment in carbon trading — a policy mechanism invented in America, used by Republican George H.W. Bush to fight acid rain, and vilified by today’s GOP as “cap and tax.”
[…]
Colorado voters approved one in 2004, and the state has increased the standard twice: The current target is 30 percent by 2020, double the one left out of the Senate bill. Colorado now generates almost 6 percent of its electricity from wind, and its commitment to clean energy has helped develop a solar industry as well: from 100 companies in 2007 to more than 400 today, according to the governor’s office. When Vestas Wind Systems, the Danish turbine maker, chose to build its North American manufacturing plants in Colorado (a $1 billion investment that was good for 2,500 new jobs), it called the RES a major factor in the decision.
[…]
Another early adopter is Texas. Its RES, signed into law by Governor George W. Bush in 1999, has helped the state become a major producer of U.S. wind power, adding almost 10 gigawatts (up from 0.2 in 1999) and thousands of new jobs in the decade since the law was enacted. Although Texas has reduced its carbon emissions as a result of this push into wind energy, Bush and his fellow Texans didn’t create the industry because they were worried about global warming. They did it because there was money to be made.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

July 30th, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Cease and desist order issued against Bakken Exploration, LLC of Brighton, Colo.

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Published March 22 2010

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced today that he has issued a cease and desist order against Bakken Exploration, LLC of Brighton, Colo., and its principals, Larry Gilmore and Heather Anne Rodewalt, for alleged violations of North Dakota consumer fraud law and failure to respond to a Civil Investigative Demand.

Bakken Exploration is engaged in the business of obtaining or leasing oil and gas rights from mineral owners in North Dakota, primarily in Burke, Divide, McKenzie, Mountrail, and Williams counties. Stenehjem has received complaints indicating that Bakken Exploration entered into oil and gas leases in North Dakota, subject to 30-day sight drafts, but subsequently refused to make payment on those sight drafts. Bakken later claimed it had been unable to verify title, offered excuses for the delay that do not appear to be true, and then requested 90-day extensions from the mineral owners.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

March 24th, 2010 at 9:28 am

Colorado Governor Increases Renewable Energy Requirements to 30% by 2020

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OFFICE OF GOV. BILL RITTER, JR.
WWW.COLORADO.GOV/GOVERNOR

MONDAY, MARCH 22, 2010

GOV. RITTER SIGNS HISTORIC RENEWABLE ENERGY BILL
Legislation will create thousands of new jobs and require nearly one-third of Colorado’s electricity come from sustainable renewable energy sources

Click here to listen to remarks

Gov. Bill Ritter today signed into law landmark legislation that gives Colorado the highest renewable energy standard in the Rocky Mountain West, requiring that 30 percent of electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2020.

Gov. Ritter Signs Historic Renewable Energy Bill 1

House Bill 10-1001 – sponsored by Rep. Max Tyler and Sens. Gail Schwartz and Bruce Whitehead – will create thousands of new jobs,
lead to 100,000 solar rooftops over the next decade, and help protect consumers and ratepayers.

Click here to read the entire press release.

Energy usage in the 21st century

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The pricing system discussed here, referred to by economists as reverse block pricing, is basically the opposite of volume discounts. Those homes and businesses that consume the most power pay a higher price per unit of electricity. In using less electricity, we then have not only the savings earned from purchasing less electricity, we are also motivated by paying less for each unit purchased.

As the editorial points out, this should not be seen as a government effort at social engineering, but as a logical mechanism to induce greater energy efficiency. The policy concerns expressed in the article are certainly apt, and ensuring that data gathered on energy use are not shared or used inappropriately is an important consideration as policies like these move forward and, hopefully, become more common.

Posted: 03/07/2010 01:00:00 AM MST

Editorial
By allowing Xcel Energy to charge a premium for higher electricity usage, the PUC is embracing modern realities.

By The Denver Post

By approving Xcel’s new two-tiered rate structure, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission moved closer to embracing more sophisticated ways of measuring and pricing electricity so that those who use the most pay a premium.

Ideally, the new structure will use financial incentives to curb consumption during peak use, and won’t be a push toward social engineering. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of the emerging economics of power generation.

Read the entire artilce here.